Keep Out the Devil

Across the country millions of people spend their days locked in tiny cells. In every city we see large sections of fenced land containing massive multi-level structures dedicated solely to housing inhabitants. With barely enough space for a bed and a few belongings, residents pass their time by playing games, conversing with one another or watching television. Of course, they usually have little free time, since a majority of their day is spent serving society by performing the more unpleasant but necessary jobs. Most of the people trapped in these facilities end up there because of poverty or poor choices, and they can’t wait to be free and move on with their lives. Yes, apartment life is terrible.

The apartment is a very interesting concept for many reasons. While residents live in close proximity to each other, even sharing hallways, elevators and laundry rooms, they tend to avoid social interaction. Also, apartments are usually managed by an elected council of representatives, producing a unique political dynamic. However, there is one behavior in particular that consistently and seriously threatens the security of the entire building’s population: holding the door open for others.

Holding the door was once considered a chivalrous act. While many still interpret it as such, others are insulted that a stranger has judged them too frail or incompetent to open their own door. The way they see it, helping certain strangers with trivial tasks such as holding the door is discriminatory, and they’re right.

Despite our culture’s emphasis on equality and individualism, people regularly treat others differently depending on many outward characteristics, including sex, age, race, clothing and physical ability. Whether we’re giving up our seat to a pregnant woman, offering an elderly person our place in line or donating to the homeless, the motivation for these acts is based on the perception that another’s need is greater than our own. While it may be that those we are assisting do not require assistance, the fact is that these deeds of kindness are often based on shallow judgments and forgotten tradition. However, it could be argued that since these kind acts are motivated by empathy, they ought to be encouraged. But empathy doesn’t ensure a positive result, for as Dr. Grant stated when confronting Billy about the stolen raptor eggs, “some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.”

One might wonder how something as simple and well-meaning as holding the door for a stranger could be harmful, but if we make the decision to allow an unknown person into the building, then the safety of each resident is compromised. If it’s acceptable to allow strangers through the building’s security system, then we might as well prop the door open for all to enter.

We may defend this behavior by arguing that the stranger seemed honest and kind, but the truth is that we were simply overcome by the obligation to be polite. Martin Vanger was right when he said that the fear of offending is greater than the fear of pain. Also, if our argument for allowing a stranger into the building is based on a brief judgement, then we’re claiming to possess the ability to determine who is and isn’t a criminal by merely looking at them for a few seconds, which would render the debate over torture and interrogation meaningless and the entire judicial system useless.

So if we aren’t supposed to hold the door for strangers, what about people we recognize from our building? First of all, it’s entirely possible that we are mistaken. It could also be that we do recognize them, but they are no longer is a resident of the building. In fact, they could have been evicted after breaking up with their partner, and they’re returning to exact revenge – revenge made possible by a careless and helpful stranger.

Whether it’s a mother pushing a stroller or an elderly man carrying groceries, the risk is too great to allow them to enter freely. We must do what’s fair and sensible and shut the door in their faces.